Holon dispatches J’lem, Ashdod advances, Rishon stays alive

“We made history and this is an amazing achievement,” says Ashdod coach Ofer Berkowitz, “and now our goal is to reach the final.”

Moran Rot_370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
Moran Rot_370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
After a dramatic night of Israeli playoff basketball, Hapoel Holon and Maccabi Ashdod advanced to the BSL Final Four on Sunday, while Maccabi Rishon Lezion forced a decisive fifth game with a win at Ironi Ashkelon.
Holon recorded a 70-64 home victory over Hapoel Jerusalem, clinching a 3-1 series win and booking a semifinal meeting against Maccabi Tel Aviv at Nokia Arena on May 22.
Ashdod reached its first ever Final Four with an 82-80 triumph over Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, the No. 2 seed and last season’s runner-up.
“We made history and this is an amazing achievement,” said Ashdod coach Ofer Berkowitz. “Now our goal is to reach the final.”
Ashdod awaits the winner of Wednesday’s Game 5 between Rishon and Ashkelon after Rishon regained home-court advantage with an 85-81 overtime road win.
After losing three straight showdowns against Jerusalem, including Game 1 of the playoffs, Holon entered Sunday looking for its third consecutive triumph over the Reds and got off to a flying start, leading 7-0 after two minutes.
However, Jerusalem replied with an 8-0 run and Moshe Mizrahi’s three-pointer to end the first period gave the visitors a 19-15 advantage.
Tasmin Mitchell’s triple to beat the first half buzzer brought Holon within a single point (28-27) and the hosts seized control at the start of the third period.
A 10-0 surge opened a 42-30 cushion and Holon was still in the driving seat (52-43) with 10 minutes to play.
However, Jerusalem fought back, closing to within two points (56-54) after a Brian Randle basket.
But the visitors could not complete the comeback, with Ron Lewis’s three with 2:11 remaining giving Holon a significant margin (62-54) it easily protected to return to Israeli basketball’s showcase event.
Mitchell led Holon with 20 points, with Lewis scoring 15 and Patrick Sullivan adding 12.
Randle had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Jerusalem, which failed to reach the Final Four for a second straight season.
Ashdod had the better of much of the first half against Gilboa, leading by as many as 10 points (41-31) before the visitors ended the second quarter with an 8-0 run, capped by a Courtney Fells basket.
There was almost nothing to separate the teams throughout the third period, but Gilboa got the final frame off to a better start, leading 69-62.
However, Ashdod had no intention of going back to Gan Ner for Game 5, with Josh Carter’s three making it 70- 69 with 4:45 remaining.
A Dagan Yavzuri triple with 48 seconds left put Gilboa back in front (78- 76), but Carter hit another three at the other end with 30s to play and Ashdod clinched the historic win from the free-throw line.
Carter capped a sensational series with 29 points and seven rebounds, with Meir Tapiro contributing 16 points and eight boards.
Romeo Travis had 18 points for Gilboa, which will not play in the Final Four for the first time in four years.
A Niv Berkowitz three to end the third period in Ashkelon gave the hosts a 60-53 gap, but Rishon slowly ate away at the deficit and Ashkelon needed Dwayne Mitchell’s basket to tie the score at 73-73 in the final minute.
Rishon lost Joe Crawford to a knee injury with 20 seconds to play and entered overtime in a despondent mood after Adrian Uter’s basket was ruled to have been scored fractions after the final buzzer.
Nevertheless, Derwin Kitchen would carry Rishon to the win, hitting a three to open an 80-77 lead with 1:40 to go before the visitors survived a nervy finish to send the series back to Rishon.
Kitchen had 21 points and eight rebounds for Rishon, while Uter added 20 points and 12 boards.
Mitchell contributed 19 points and 11 rebounds for Ashkelon, which is now in real danger of becoming the first team to lose a 2-0 lead in an Israeli playoff series.
Hapoel Tel Aviv moved to within one win of promotion to the BSL on Sunday, defeating Maccabi Be’er Ya’akov 85-65 at Hadar Yosef Arena to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.